AFL Marking Secrets

USP - Looks big, plays weak

Sydney Swans Superstar Player and USP Athlete Kurt Tippett transferring his work from the gym onto the playing arena!

One of the most amazing attributes, relatively unique to the game of AFL is spectacular marking. We’ve consistently seen the courage of players such as Jonathan Brown or Nick Riewoldt that run back with the flight of the ball with total disregard to their own personal safety. We’ve witnessed players like Chad Wingard, Matt Lloyd, Ashley Sampi and Gary Moorcroft take some absolute screamers!! If you have no idea what I’m referring to, check out the video below!

Although each one of the players mentioned above are highly skilled, there’s a few keys to physically developing elite marking ability that you can implement immediately in your own training.

Examples of ways to increase marking ability that we use at USP Gymnasium in THE PIT.

1. Complex Training

Complex training alternates a heavy resistance exercise (a strength exercise) such as a 5RM squat with a biomechanically similar plyometric movement running vertical jump mark as per the video below will allow for greater and potentially faster force production. (1) In the video clip above you see Harry Simmington perform a set of front squats with bands then move into running vertical jump marks with the football.

USP Athlete and Sydney Swans Superstar developing his lower body strength with a back squat!

2. Contrast Training

A very effective training method consists of varying the external load either during a workout, during an exercise, or even during a repetition. This has several benefits, including a more complete development of the motor capacities and strength qualities. It can have a very high training effect on the nervous system as well as on the muscle structures. A contrast training method I picked up from Brisbane Broncos Premiership Winning Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Baker was the integration of a strength based or power based exercise with a sport specific activity. In the video clip above you see Harry Simmington perform a set of snatch high pulls followed by Tredsled sprints which constitutes and example of Contrast Training.

Dan Baker Brisbane Broncos Premiership Win

3. Plyometrics

Includes exercises that exploit the stretch-shortening cycle (the elastic energy that transfers from the prior eccentric contraction to the concentric contraction) basically includes any exercise that switches quickly from eccentric to concentric another universally training methods for developing explosive power

4. Accelerated Eccentrics (Use of bands)

During the video you could see former AFL Gold Coast Junior Footballer of the year Harry Simington utilise giant elastic rubber bands attached the ends of the barbell. These bands accumulate and increase kinetic energy to accelerate the eccentric component (Negative/Lowering) of the exercise, thereby causing the athlete to increase their elastic energy, reflex energy and ultimately requiring greater force production in the concentric component of the lift, as the use of bands matches the strength curve of the exercise or forces the athlete to accelerate all the way to the top of the lock out. In traditional strength training exercises without the use of bands, the athlete has to actually decelerate the bar towards the lock out/end of the exercise to ensure the athletes joints stay same and healthy. This is actually training the athlete to decelerate-which is not what we want.

5. Ballistic Power Exercises using dynamic effort method. Demonstrated by Brad performing his ballistic Jumping Back Squats. The movement mimics the position an athlete gets into when jumping to take a mark.

6. Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic Lifting For Explosive Athletic Performance

The Olympic lifts such as the Snatch High Pull that Harry performed in the video clip are explosive by nature. This means that to complete the lift you must produce a lot of acceleration.

1. The Olympic lifts have a very large power output. The body improves what it is trained to do, train to produce a lot of power and you’ll get better at producing power!

2. The Olympic lifts require that you synchronize several muscle actions to produce one fluid, powerful motion. This means that becoming efficient in the Olympic lifts will improve the efficacy of the nervous system to create well-timed motor patterns, and this general capacity can be transferred to sports.

3. The Olympic lifts develop strength and power in muscles that are key in most sports: quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back, traps, and arms.

Check out the video below of Joey working with Essendon Ruckman Sam Michael combining Olympic Weight Lifting, Power Lifting, Sports Specific Plyometric Movements, With supramaximal eccentrics (Weight Releasers) and accomodating resistance (Chains) to enhance Sam’s speed, power and leap!

4. The Olympic lifts teach an athlete to receive an outside force and how to absorb it. This is critical for optimum sport performance and can also help reduce the risk of on-field injuries due to external forces.

5. The Olympic lifts are a great way to develop CNS efficacy and to train the CNS to recruit high threshold muscle fibers, which are normally hard to stimulate. (4)

7. Upper Body Strength contributes upwards of 28% to jumping height. therefore perform exercises to increase upper body strength.

Brisbane Bronco and PIT Athlete Nat Barnes Developing Upper Body Strength performing his Incline Bench Press
World Champ Martial Artist Matty Parks Developing his Back Strength

Arm swing can increase vertical jump performance because it improves the transfer of power down the posterior chain, translating into more “hang time.” (3).

I often speak about transference onto the athletic arena. It’s one thing to be able to successfully perform a task in the gym or in a controlled environment, but the real key from a strength and conditioning coaches’ perspective is to get the actual transference of strength and power to be demonstrated during the actual game.

One of the specific AFL drills, that we’ve implemented to assist with the transference of strength and power from the gym into a specific game based marking scenario is called, “Running back with flight of the ball mark and reverse” and is from our Speed, Agility, Quickness and Reaction Training for Athletes DVD.

This drill encourages the athlete to accelerate, decelerate, change direction, run back with the flight of the ball as well as to jump and mark with precise timing.

All the best,

Joey Hayes

(1) Selvanayagam, V., Riek, S., et al. Early Neural Responses to Strength Training. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011. 111(2), 367-375.

(2) MacDonald, C., Lamont, H., et al. A Comparison of the Effects of Six Weeks of Traditional Resistance training, Plyometric Training, and Complex Training on Measures of Strength and Anthropometrics. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. 26(2), 422-431.

(3) Hara, M., Shibayama, A., et al. The Effect of Arm Swing on Lower Extremities in Vertical Jumping. Journal of Biomechanics. 2006. 39(13), 2503-2511.

(4) Thibaudeau, C. Theory and Application of Modern Strength and Power Methods.